Victorious hooker Jamie George has identified the belief installed by Eddie Jones, Steve Borthwick’s coaching and the leadership qualities of Dylan Hartley as three of the major factors behind England’s historic tour of Australia.
In five all-conquering months, England have risen phoenix-like from the despair of the World Cup to claim a Six Nations Grand Slam and climb to second in the world rankings following a 3-0 Wallabies whitewash.
Saracen George reckons the players deserve credit too, telling The Rugby Paper: “To deliver like we did was incredible. We were very clear in the goals we set ourselves going to Australia and I’m not sure anyone outside the squad believed we could win 3-0, but we had faith we could because of the foundations laid in the Six Nations.
“You can’t put our recent turnaround down to just one thing, but first and foremost the players were bitterly disappointed with the World Cup and we came back to our clubs and had a good, hard look at ourselves and why we failed.
“You have that review process and we learned a lot of lessons. Eddie then came in and did a brilliant job in giving us confidence and freedom to believe we can eventually be the best team in the world. He gave us the short-term goal of being the best team in Europe and he’s been clear all the way through in what he wanted.
“All the players bought into that massively and it’s gone well so being No.2 in the world now doesn’t sound bad considering we were eighth when Eddie came in. We realised that wasn’t good enough and Eddie spelled out what he expected in his first meeting with us.
“There’s a lot of hard work ahead if we want to catch New Zealand, but every time we’ve been challenged we seem to step up to the mark. It’s an exciting prospect and we’ve got a great bunch determined to make it happen.”
England’s forward pack crumbled during the World Cup, but Borthwick’s arrival, allied to the recall of Hartley and Maro Itoje’s emergence as a potentially world-class lock-cum-back rower, has produced the hard-nosed English grunt Jones craved.
George explained: “Steve (below) has had a huge impact on that forward pack and the team in general. He’s a brilliant coach and it seems like it’s so easy for him to get his message across.
“He’s instantly got a huge amount of respect because of the player he was and he’s just so knowledgeable. He’s a huge student of the game who’s so passionate and he’s got that pack buying in massively to what he wants. The way the pack has played is a huge reflection of how good Steve’s coaching is and I’m really looking forward to continuing that relationship.
“Being captain at Saracens before, he had a big say in how we played and demanded a high standard, so that’s just the same now and I can’t speak highly enough of what he’s doing. It’s been a natural progression for him.”
Hartley’s infamous butt on George at the end of the 2014-15 season resulted in a ban that cost him a place at last year’s World Cup, but England’s back-up No.2 insists the pair have patched up any lingering differences.
“You don’t ever really carry any of that on off the field,” George said. “What happens in the heat of battle happens and we’ve moved well past that and have a really good working relationship.
“We’ve got to know each other a lot better and Dylan’s been a brilliant captain and great leader. Eddie puts a lot of responsibility in his hands but he’s taken that in his stride and played brilliantly in the Six Nations and in this latest Test series.
“A captain playing well helps and at the same time he’s got three really good vice-captains around him in Owen Farrell, Mike Brown and Billy Vunipola, as well as the experience of James Haskell and Chris Robshaw. There’s a good, strong group of leaders within the squad now and Dylan’s been at the forefront of creating that.”
George, whose footballing skills came to the fore with a grubber for Farrell’s series-clinching try in the second Test in Melbourne before claiming a five-pointer of his own off the shin in Sydney, is proud of the part Saracens played in England’s success.
Farrell, George Kruis, Itoje and Mako and Billy Vunipola were all outstanding and George said: “It was a tremendous effort by the guys. It had been a very long year with the World Cup and people forget we went straight into a league season.
“We started that World Cup camp at the end of June and we’ve been going non-stop since, so it’s been a long, hard campaign, but for the Saracens lads we just wanted to continue the momentum after succeeding in the Premiership and Europe.
“It’s always so exciting being involved in England camps, especially with the way this squad is going, and we were just desperate to get stuck in.”
George will now take an opportunity to reflect before reporting back for pre-season training with Saracens around four weeks from now.
The Premiership and Champions Cup ‘double’ winner added: “The last two seasons have been a bit surreal and don’t come around too often. To win the double so emphatically and then make history in Australia, it doesn’t get much better than that so I’m going to make sure I reflect on it before looking ahead.
“After that I’ll get back into it and work as hard as I can to keep developing my game. That’s all I can control and I’ll look to be as competitive and strive to be as good as I can to ensure I’m selected by England again.”
Comments are closed on this article.